The word “arrest” brings up an image of someone with their hands behind their back and their wrists shackled with metal cuffs. The arrested individual is considered to be in the police’s custody and no longer has the freedoms given to all citizens. Making an arrest is one of the procedures of a police officer when a person commits a crime. However, what happens if a person decides that they do not want to be arrested? In this article, we will explore what it means to resist arrest (148 pc).

What is an arrest?

Under California Penal Code Section 834, “an arrest is taking a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law.  An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.” The person making the arrest is restricting another person from moving. The reason for making an arrest is to prevent the individual from committing a crime or a second crime. It can also be used to subdue an individual who intends to cause harm.

Why would someone need to be arrested?

The goal is to protect the public from the individual. For example, if a person harms another individual, a police officer can arrest the assailant to prevent the assailant from causing more harm to the victim.

An arrest is made when the person making the arrest has a reasonable cause that the person being arrested is in possession of a “dangerous weapon”. Reasonable cause is a legal term that means that, given the knowable facts and circumstances at that time, the person making the arrest saw that there was cause to act. The purpose of the arrest is to keep others, including the arrestor, safe.

What does it mean to resist arrest?

A person who “willfully resists, delays, or obstructs a police officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician” (CA Penal Code § 148 (through 2013 Leg Sess) from making an arrest. Resisting includes struggling, biting, fleeing the scene or attempting to flee the scene, and taunting the victim. Someone who is resisting arrest is looking to leave the scene of the crime without being arrested.

pc 148

In addition to fleeing the scene, what else falls under the crime of resisting an arrest?

Unless a person is being arrested or detained, one does not need to identify himself to a police officer. An example of this is if a police officer comes up to someone who is walking down the street and asks for ID. In this scenario, the person may not need to provide identification.

If a person is being arrested and provides a false ID, this is illegal. Falsely representing or identifying oneself to a police officer falls under the category of resisting arrest because the person is obstructing justice. For example, a driver who is pulled over from a traffic stop is required to provide identification. If the driver provides the officer with her sister’s driver’s license, this is considered to be obstructing justice and the driver can be charged with resisting arrest.

Can a person unwillfully resist arrest?

Let’s say a person faints, thereby going limp while being arrested. In some states, going limp can be considered resisting arrest because the arrestee is making it more challenging for the arresting officer to make the arrest. Would fainting be considered resisting arrest?

Given the facts in this scenario, most likely not because the person did not willfully make their body limp. There must be an intention when the person resists an arrest. Other examples of unwillfully resisting arrest include:

  • The person trips or stumbles as a result of their inebriated state, not because they were trying to escape.
  • The person honestly misunderstood or misheard the police officer’s instructions.

If a person is falsely accused of a crime, can the person resist arrest?

Even if a person is innocent, it is better to not resist arrest and to get everything settled at the police station. Resisting arrest can lead to potential harm to the individual. Remember, the goal of the arrest is to restrain an individual who seeks to do harm. If an innocent person is arrested, resisting the arrest may cause the arresting officer to use force to make the person submit to the arrest. In some instances, the officer may use a weapon such as a baton or a taser. It would not help an innocent person’s case when claiming their innocence if they were to resist an arrest.

What are the ramifications of resisting an arrest?

Resisting arrest (pc 148) is considered to be a misdemeanor. The sentence for a person who is convicted of resisting an arrest is to pay an amount not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000). The court may rule that the resistor serves time, up to a year, in a county jail.

What does it mean to evade arrest?

When a driver hears a siren and sees the lights on a police car indicating that the driver should pull over, the driver is required to obey and pull over safely to the side. If a driver were to not pull over to the side but to keep driving as to avoid the police, that is considered to be evading arrest.

In California, evading an arrest requires that the police clearly show that they are telling a driver to pull over, and the driver willfully flees. Since the intention is to elude the police, they have willfully “disregard for the safety of persons or property” (California Vehicle Code (CVC) 2800.2(a)). Similarly to someone who resists arrest, someone who evades arrest can be sentenced to jail time for up to a year and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000.00. 

Are there additional charges that can be added to the charge of resisting arrest?

Yes, if the resistance includes harming the police officer, simple assault or aggravated assault charges can be added to the charge. These charges have their own penalties including jail time, fines, and potentially prison time.

Have you been arrested?

If you or someone you know has been arrested or has been accused of resisting an arrest, it is recommended to speak with a professional to help navigate the process. Contact David L. Faulkner to speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney who has experience defending criminal charges.

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